Naked City

Mining the Golden State

Naked City

The George W. Bush campaign juggernaut continues to rake in the dough. And while the big numbers from his latest financial report -- $20.1 million raised, $12.7 million spent, with $37.7 million cash in the bank -- have been widely reported, the report also shows that Bush continues to make a big push in California, a state the Democrats absolutely must win if they want to hold on to the White House.

The report shows that between July 1 and Sept. 30, the Bush campaign spent more in California -- $848,000 -- than it did in New Hampshire, and almost matched the $854,000 it spent in Iowa. Over the past six months, the Bush campaign has spent over $1 million in California, which contains more than a fifth of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency. By comparison, the next-biggest spender in California over that time was Vice President Al Gore, with a total of $496,000. The other contenders are even further down the monetary food chain. Federal Election Commission filings show that Bush's fellow Republican, Elizabeth Dole (who recently quit the race), had spent $85,000. Sen. John McCain spent $48,000, and Democrat Bill Bradley spent a total of $72,000.

The Bush campaign's spending in California began early in the campaign. Between April 1 and June 30, Bush reported spending $157,000 in California. The latest report doesn't include state-by-state breakdowns; according to Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker, the information is "not something we will be reporting because we are not taking federal matching funds."

Nonetheless, calculating the spending information can be done, using a less-than-perfect method. The Chronicle got the $848,000 figure, for example, by culling out all of the payments made by the campaign to entities with California addresses. It may be, however, that some of the money spent in California is for goods or services that are being delivered or targeted outside of California. For instance, the campaign has spent $1.4 million in Virginia over the past three months, but over $1 million of that was paid to a single vendor, Automated Compliance Services, which provides financial and accounting services to the campaign. And much of the more than $6 million Bush spent in Texas is for goods and services aimed at wooing voters in other states.

Margita Thompson, the California communications coordinator for the Bush campaign, declined to comment on the campaign's spending in the state, saying she had not seen any spending breakdowns. But she pointed out that the campaign does not have any California-based consultants, and that it has hired four full-time staffers to work in the state. "I have to assume a lot of the spending is for infrastructure for staff and office space," Thompson said. And while she acknowledged that Bush will have a hard time winning California -- which last went Republican in 1988 when George W.'s father won the state -- she said, "The fact that we have a permanent staff here and are organizing the state at this early stage shows we plan to win."

Bush's push in California clearly puts the heat on Gore, who has made some five dozen trips to California as vice president. And Bush's poll numbers are justifying the spending. A poll taken last month by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that Bush is starting to win over Latino voters, who make up 15% of the state's population. The poll found that Gore's support among Latinos has dropped from 50% to 39%, while Bush's support grew from 16% to 20%. More importantly, the poll found that if the 2000 presidential race were held right away, Bush would beat Gore, 49-44%. A more recent poll, published last week by The San Diego Union-Tribune, found Bush leading Gore in the state by one percentage point, 47-46%.

Those numbers should be encouraging to Bush, who is counting on winning Texas and the rest of the South. If he can win California's 54 electoral votes, he'll be the first son of a president to win the White House since John Quincy Adams did it in 1824.

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